By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd
2011 AEGON International at Devonshire Park, Eastbourne
Battler Bartoli takes Eastbourne title
Unorthodox Marion Bartoli captured her first Eastbourne title, having never got pass the semi-finals before in four previous attempts, with a hard-fought 6-1 4-6 7-5 success over Petra Kvitova.
Kvitova impressed on her Eastbourne debut with a two tremendous fightbacks in a day but bowed out in an enthralling final to Bartoli. Battling Bartoli got off to a cracking start to thunder past traditional slow-starter Kvitova, breaking serve on the fourth game for a comfortable 3-1 lead.
The French ace, who impressed with a swift semi-final triumph over gutsy Australian Sam Stosur, played consistently and Kvitova made numerous unforced errors to surrender the opening set with just one game to her credit.
However, the second set was a different ball game with the world no8 starting to measure up to Bartoli’s powerful drives. But Bartoli broke Kvitova and held her serve for another 3-1 lead.
Rise from the dead
The Czech star looked dead and buried on Centre Court, finding the transition from this morning’s semi-final victory over injured Daniela Hantuchova on Court 1 too tricky initially.
Then Kvitova, the no5 seed, moved up a few gears to take the game to Bartoli with a string of impressive groundstrokes to outwit the clever two-hander and break back to level matters at 3-3. With Kvitova suddenly find her confidence to hit winners from all over the court, and no longer scared to dictate at the net, she broke in the 10th game to level matters with a 6-4 advantage.
The decisive set was neck and neck with neither player keen to relinquish the chance to claim a confidence-boasting title going into 2011 Wimbledon.
Games went with serve in a cagey affair, with Bartoli fending of! f break point to survive the scare and keep the result in the balance at 3-3. Kvitova let out a trademark joyous shriek after her neat dropshot gave her a 4-3 advantage.
With games going with serve at 5-5 it appeared that a tie-break would have to divide the pair of seeded players until Bartoli broke to lead 6-5 and served out for the title.
Kvitova kills off injured Hantuchova
Petra Kvitova bounced back from a stuttering start to overcome in-form Daniela Hantuchova (pictured) 7-6 4-2 when the Slovak star retired with a left abdominal injury.
The Czech ace was outplayed initially, losing the opening three games against rejuvenated Hantuchova, but gathered her nerves to work her way back into an intriguing tie.
With Hantuchova’s overpowering serve working to her advantage and a string of solid groundstrokes, Kvitova played a cagey game and fought back to trail 4-3 before the Slovak ace required a treatment break for an injury flare-up.
On her return the world no8 bounced back and did well to force a tie-break, but the pair were well matched and it took a marathon 11-9 result to hand Kvitova the opening set.
With Hantuchova’s movement fast deteriorating it came as no surprise that the no5 seed dominated play and dictated! from the baseline with occasion forays to the net to put away volleys and smashes.
Much to the disappointment of the enthusiastic Court 1 crowd, Hantuchova, playing her first back-to-back semi-finals for many years, had little choice but to wave the white flag and bow out graciously with her injury. Kvitova, the highest ranked player in the final four, will need to start well in this afternoon’s final if she is claim the Eastbourne title on her Devonshire Park debut.
Bartoi blasts past stuttering Stosur
Marion Bartoli reached her maiden Eastbourne final after a convincing 6-3 6-1 success over out-of-sorts Sam Stosur on a very blustery Centre Court, which affected the serving ability of the pair of seeds.
Bartoli bounced all over the court from the beginning and behaved like a prize-fighter throughout, swinging her racquet to practice shots at every opportunity. The unorthodox two-handed French ace was in formidable form to run away with the opening set,
Stosur uncharacteristically playing a defensive game and staying on the baseline. Bartoli moved through the gears in the second set, following a three minute break for a short shower to pass, and thundered drives from all corners to leave Stosur looking lost and unable to cope.
Although the crowd were desperate for a third set and very supportive of Stosur, the Australian simply could not find her rhythmn and appears lost to suffer a heavy defeat.
“Marion was hitting the ball very hard out there, and the conditions were worse than the other day – but it was just one of those things. I’ve had a great week overall and got some competitive matches on grass behind me to take to Wimbledon.
“I didn’t see Serena (Williams) play here but I think she came back too soon, she had a year out so we’ll see how she gets on next week”
– Sam Stosur
Finals Day preview: What to expect at Eastbourne
World no8 Petra Kvitova faces Slovak ace Daniela Hantuchova in the first semi-final showdown.
2010 Wimbledon semi-finalist Kvitova, the highest ranked player left, has impressed on her Devonshire Park debut and the Czech star possesses natural grass skills despite having never won a match on the surface prior to last year’s heroics at SW19.
The 21-year-old left-hander has a battle on her hands against world no25 Hantuchova, who is a rejuvenated player on her seventh visit to Eastbourne.
The 2004 Devonshire Park runner-up has registered impressive wins over French Open champion Li Na and American superstar Venus Williams to reach back-to-back singles semi-finals on the WTA Tour for the first time in four seasons.
Eastbourne regulars Sam Stosur and Marion Bartoli will battle it out for a place in the final for the first time on, and have high top form this season. World no10 Stosur stormed into her third semi-final this season, and saw off top seed Vera Zvonareva in the quarter-finals.
Unorthodox Bartoli is in her fifth successive semi-final at Devonshire Park, having bowed out graciously in the past four encounters. The French ace plays two-handed on both sides and arrived at Devonshire Park on a career-high ranking of world no9 following her heroics at Roland Garros.